A friend texted me the other night and we got around to Twitter. His words, not mine, were: “You seem like a Twitter sensation. Lots of followers and such.” I responded that Twitter is about connections, and he asked, “You just build it through retweets?”
Ah, young Tweeters.
Here were some of my tips:
1. Establish an identity and carve yourself a niche. I am a Mets fan who teaches and has an interest in photography. Incidentally, those were the identifying traits in my Twitter profile for quite a while. Now my profile is much less ambiguous and a lot more focused. It leaves no doubt about what I do and what I stand for: “Elementary teacher of special education. Believer in the abilities and value of all children. Education blogger. I’m in it for the kids.” It wasn’t until my blog and Twitter stream began to reflect these views and little else that I gained more followers. Once I better identified what I was about, I was also able to tether my blog to my educational values, and since then, I have written some of my best, most appreciated posts.
2. Be a blogger. This means reading others’ blogs, commenting on them, and following up with them on Twitter (either through a credited retweet or by pursuing further conversation). I also suggested my friend start his own blog and try to identify its purpose early on. Like I alluded to above, having a voice on your blog is a plus. I initially conceived this blog to be about photography, teaching, and, wait for it … cooking. Ha! That’s because I started it one day when I was bored and it seemed like a grand idea. Clearly the blog has evolved, and with a consistent, expected message (“inspiration from inside the classroom”), more people are following me and looking to read future posts.
3. There is no one alive who is Youer than You. I went back to my buddy’s Twitter feed to see what he was tweeting. He has a decent amount of sports observations that are very much in the vein of some of the more prolific sports media types. They’re basically ironic, off-color observations. I told him, “You’re not those guys.” I know I had a phase where I tried to tweet in the style of others with millions of followers. Then I realized they also had radio and tv appearances and thousands of views on their blogs, and therefore a greater audience to start with. I didn’t have those things, and I wouldn’t ever if I didn’t do what they do: be individuals. I believe the message and ideas you promote will increase a following more than parroting the style of someone who is more established. Sure, they can inspire you, but there’s a reason we’re the ones watching them on tv.
4. Be thankful you have any followers in the first place. Of course, it is almost laughable that nearly 1,300 people follow me. It always surprises me to see my follower count and I am often amazed at how many people are viewing my blog. We all want more followers – they do the ego good – but, realistically, we have to be glad that there’s anyone who wants to follow us.
So those are my tips for my buddy and for you (if you’re looking to build your follower count). I’m no expert, but since the summer, I’ve gained about 1,000 followers, and I think the reasons above are the main reasons why.